06/13/2011 3:09PM

Churchill Downs: Stephen Foster puts spotlight on older runners

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As the racing world begins to wean itself from the Triple Crown, the older-horse division will move into the spotlight Saturday when a big, competitive field meets in the Grade 1, $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Giant Oak, the 122-pound highweight for the 1 1/8-mile Foster, was among a slew of prospects to put in final prerace works in recent days when breezing five furlongs early Sunday in 1:00.60 over a fast Churchill surface.

“He’s coming into this as good as I’ve seen him come into one,” said trainer Chris Block.

Giant Oak, with Shaun Bridgmohan to ride, will be seeking to emulate what Blame did here in 2009-10, when he swept the Clark Handicap, the Foster, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Giant Oak won the Clark last fall on the disqualification of Successful Dan. The BC Classic will be run here again on Nov. 5.

At least 11 older horses are considered likely for the 30th running of the Foster. With weights, they are Giant Oak, 122 pounds; Crown of Thorns, 121; Apart, 118; Duke of Mischief, 118; Mission Impazible, 118; Gladding, 117; Regal Ransom, 117; Equestrio, 116; Pool Play, 116; A.U. Miner, 114; and Flat Out, 114.

Crown of Thorns and Gladding were scheduled to be flown here Tuesday from California.

The Foster anchors a 12-race Saturday card that also will include three Grade 3 races and the first Arabian race in track history. Entries will be drawn Wednesday.

◗ There will be no carryovers in either the $2 pick six or the $1 super high five when racing resumes here Thursday after one perfect ticket was sold in those respective pools Sunday. The pick six paid $62,782 after several days of carryover, while the super high five returned $8,153.20 on a one-day payout.

◗ Manny Cruz was the riding star here last weekend, booting home five winners Saturday, including My Baby Baby in the Grade 3 Mint Julep Handicap. Cruz also won the first race Sunday, giving him 15 for the meet. Corey Lanerie holds a commanding lead atop the jockey standings with 34 wins.